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​Addressing Severe and Multiple Disadvantages in LGBT Communities

Published: 13 August 2020 Tags: By Emma Meehan

LGBT Foundation’s new report unveils some of the profound disadvantages and stark inequalities faced by LGBT people across their lives. These findings will lead many of us to ask ourselves what can be done to prevent and overcome these disadvantages. Here we lay out six key recommendations for addressing severe and multiple disadvantages in LGBT communities.

Today LGBT Foundation have released an innovative and unique piece of research titled ‘You build your own family, that’s how you get through it: Understanding LGBT people’s experiences of severe and multiple disadvantage’, which has been funded by Lankelly Chase. This research tells the stories of a cohort of LGBT people who have faced severe and multiple disadvantage through their lives. In places these disadvantages were unrelated to participants’ LGBT identities however it was abundantly clear throughout that LGBTphobic discrimination, bullying and rejection had had a lasting and pernicious impact.

These disadvantages were further compounded by a lack of adequate support; it was felt that services did not understand the ways in which being LGBT can impact someone’s life and didn’t know how to provide support that takes into account someone’s LGBT identity.

This research has demonstrated that substantial and far reaching changes are needed to ensure firstly that LGBT people are provided with the right support to overcome the impacts of severe and multiple disadvantages and more importantly so that LGBT people don’t experience severe and multiple disadvantage in the first place. LGBT Foundation firmly believes that any research that we carry out should be used to enable change. As the first step in achieving this change we have used the findings to create six recommendations aimed primarily at commissioners, policymakers, employers and public sector bodies. These recommendations are by no means comprehensive, but have been put forwards as they are the most tangible, succinct and impactful if implemented, and best capture the depth and range of the changes needed to make a positive difference.

1. Commissioners should work with LGBT people to develop public services which reflect the needs of ‘communities of identity’ as opposed to shared sense of place, which are often prioritised in the design of public services.

The report concluded that services need to improve as ‘organisations which sought to address needs associated with their disadvantage failed to engage with the complexities and challenges of their lives arising from being LGBT’.

Putting communities of identity, including LGBT communities, at the heart of the decision making process is vital in ensuring that addressing inequalities is at the centre of public services and that barriers can be addressed in a strategic and joined up way rather than addressed by individual services as issues arise.

2. All public services should record the sexual orientation and trans status of people when they come into contact with them.

LGBT Foundation believes that ‘if we are not counted we don’t count.’

Monitoring is vital as it improves the level of person centred care that can be offered, as the more a service knows about a person the more they can tailor the support they provide to them. Monitoring is also essential as it increases the available evidence on health inequalities and helps services to recognise where the most substantial inequalities lie.

3. All Schools and Young People Services should implement new guidance on relationships, sex and health education which is inclusive of LGBT people and relationships.

“I went to an all-boys secondary school. There was an awful lot of bullying on grounds of my sexuality. I hadn’t come out then.”

Adverse experiences in childhood can have negative effects long into adulthood and sadly LGBTphobic bullying is still commonplace in schools. Participants spoke about being unable to get support from their school around their identity, which can further exacerbate these negative experiences.

From September 2020 all secondary schools will be required to teach pupils about sexual orientation and gender identity, and all primary schools will be required to teach about different families, including LGBT families. This is a hugely positive step and schools must ensure they follow this guidance to better support LGBT pupils.

4. All services should help educate their staff on the shared experiences and issues facing LGBT people, those with multiple and complex needs, and the intersections between them.

A key finding in the report was that ‘there was a deep distrust of statutory services coupled with a belief that services and service providers were judgemental and ineffective.’ Services must be proactive and ensure that staff are properly trained in LGBT inclusion and awareness to reduce incidences of discrimination and ensure staff understand how to provide person centred care to LGBT people.

Services, including LGBT specific services, should seek out partnerships with other organisations such as BAME organisations to improve the way they support people with multiple minority identities.

5. Commissioners should develop services that build on the strengths and assets of LGBT people and those with multiple and complex needs by providing direct resources to them.

“You build your own family, that’s how you get through it.”

Despite the numerous challenges that many of the participants faced, they were still able to share their experiences and support others. People are the experts of their own experience and have invaluable knowledge on how to support others facing similar challenges, therefore commissioners should provide support to allow people to help their peers.

Peer networks can already exist but can need support through the use of spaces and finances to build on their initial strengths. Working closely with existing LGBT-led services and community groups, commissioners can seek to build on the strengths of these networks by commissioning in an ‘asset-based’ way.

6. All settings should be LGBT affirmative by working with LGBT-led services to review the spaces they use; their working policies and the information they provide to the people they work with. This includes settings that people will come into contact with throughout their lifetime- from schools, to workplaces, to older people’s services.

“Knowing that there’s somewhere safe to go, somewhere safe to go, somewhere that’s non judgemental, private. Where could I go that’s private in North Wales? To talk to anybody. And it’s informative.”

The participants reported stigma throughout their lives in a range of settings including the majority of services they had tried to access. Visibility can go a long way in making a service more LGBT affirmative, for example clearly displaying information about LGBT organisations and sharing the experiences of LGBT people on commemorative dates such as National Coming Out Day.

Having clear inclusion and anti-discrimination policies that all staff are aware of is also essential, for example organisations should communicate to their staff that they have a zero-tolerance policy towards discrimination on the grounds LGBT identity.